An exasperated but well-meaning note to camera reviewers

business and consumers, photography, technology

[I posted this on a camera review forum a long time ago, and I hope you don’t mind me republishing it here 🙂 – Adam]

I just finished reading [a particular review of a camera], and that was the last straw.

This criticism is not specific to [the reviewer], however, nor is it intended to reflect particularly upon [a “rival” reviewer].

Rather, I’m just fed up with these problems as I perceive them in general:

1) Focusing more space in a ‘review’ on the technical specs of a camera than anything else. Please. I’ve already seen the specs on the manufacturer’s site. I know what the camera can do, or at least what it can supposedly do. Skip the official numbers and get right to the nitty-gritty, please. How does the camera feel in your hands? How intuitive is it? If I want just the facts, I can get that from a hundred sites other than yours. Instead, give me blunt and backed up OPINIONS based upon facts.

2) Swallowing and regurgitating marketing-speak. The cutesy acronyms and gee-whiz adjectives from the camera manufacturers made me roll my eyes the first time I read the fluff. I don’t need to see this stuff repeated… especially uncritically!

3) Focusing more on laboratory tests (how many milliseconds is that shot to shot time?) than on actual real-life shooting examples, particularly under less-than-ideal shooting conditions. Let me cut to the chase: I’m gonna gag if I see another sample gallery filled with outdoor-blue-sunny-sky shots. I don’t know about you, but IT’S NOT GORGEOUSLY SUNNY HERE EVERY DAY where I live, nor am I shooting every photo outdoors or inside with one smiling subject who is posing 4 feet from me perfectly motionless.

This last bit really gets my goat. I don’t know about you, but here are some of the things I like to have a camera for:
– House/apartment parties where you want candid, not portrait shots
– Wedding receptions (at your table, zoomed in to the bride, etc.)
– Dances (ballroom, junior prom, whatever)
– Famous museums and churches
– Reunions or other get togethers with lots of indoor people shots

When was the last time you saw any picture like this attached to a photo review?

When I e-mailed one prominent reviewer, asking him to at least have ONE less-than-ideally-lit indoor person/people shot, he protested that he didn’t have anyone handy. Hello?! Go to a bowling alley. A restaurant. A museum. I don’t care. Heck, treat a neighbor or friend to a $4 latte at a local cafe and take his or her picture there.

And beyond this issue, I’d be so much happier to hear reviewers dropping the pretenses for a moment and lugging the camera with ’em to multiple spots throughout a 24 hour period, and reporting back what their challenges were. Be creative and be thorough. Take a picture through the car window (since many of us tourists take pics through train or plane or bus windows). Go to a playground and take pictures of your squirmy kids or (with a parents’ permission in today’s paranoid climate) of other kids. If you live near a body of water, capture a water skiier. Take a shot of a tall glass skyscraper. Take some closeup (macro) pics of flowers. I know, I know, your time is not unlimited, but I’d rather see real-life shots like this instead of the countless other pages of stats and charts you work so hard on.

In other words, take pictures like the rest of us do, dangit! I do admit it’s nice to have some consistency of photos between your reviews, but could we start seeing more pictures that approximate real life — or at least the sort of pictures more of us are taking in real life?

And then report back, too, on your experiences in taking these pictures. Like, “Well, I had a lot of trouble auto-focusing on the youngster on the slide. I initially thought it was due to the bright reflectiveness of the slide, but soon realized that in this camera’s autofocusing was next to useless in almost all bright-sunlight conditions.” THAT is useful information.

Instead of telling us there’s 0.31415928 barrel distortion, take a PICTURE of a friend in a doorway. Let us SEE what this barrel distortion looks like.

To the reviewers out there who may be reading this, yes, I realize your “job” is largely thankless. Believe me, as a Webmaster AND a moderator of a popular forum on another site, I know firsthand how hard it can be to please all people.

But please, I beseech you: Step back. Think not like a photography scientist, but as someone who wants to grab pictures of their friends, of everyday life indoors and outdoors… someone who wants to shoot moving, changing, not-always sunny Life. Then imagine that someone is plunking down $500 on a camera + accessories based upon YOUR recommendation.

Thank you. THANK YOU! 🙂

0 comments… add one

What do you think?